Currently, the highest level of baseball in the Maritimes is senior baseball. The Nova Scotia and New Brunswick senior leagues have five teams apiece. With the relative lull in the local sports calendar during the summer months, senior ball has a chance at becoming the main event on the local sports calendar during these months. Here are ways that both leagues could improve and help bring more fans to the ballpark.
- Expand: Considering the players are all amateurs who hold regular jobs, this can be difficult. In order to expand, you need a sizable group of potential players who live in or near the new team. But ignoring that, ideally both leagues would have at least eight teams. The Nova Scotia League at one point had eight teams in the late 1990’s (the current lineup plus Yarmouth, Sackville & Northside). Expansion for the NSSBL should target the South Shore (either Yarmouth or Bridgewater). Also considered should be Stellarton (the Albions have a great baseball tradition of year’s past) and a second Cape Breton team (either a return to North Sydney or perhaps Port Hawkesbury, which was rumoured to join the league at one point). Having said that, if another place put a team together by all means, let them join the league, the more the merrier. The NBSBL should target Summerside, another northern location (Bathurst, Campbellton or Edmundston) and another western team (St. Stephen, Woodstock, etc). More teams would give more competition (ie fewer games against the same teams) and (if they’re competitive) a more interesting league in which to follow.
- Inter-league Intrigue: About a decade ago, the two leagues played a limited number of inter-league games against each other. They also played an All-Star Game against each other a few times. In 2006, there was even talk of a Maritime championship series between the champions of both leagues. With proper scheduling, they could accomplish all three of these. First, for inter-league play. A brief inter-league schedule could be put together by having each team travel to play the other league for one weekend per season (two or three games total). Another plan to implement inter-league play while still cutting back on travel is to borrow an idea from AUS volleyball. In volleyball, the AUS & QSSF (Quebec) play two inter-league “tournaments” each season, one in Atlantic Canada, the other in Quebec. There each team plays three or so games against teams from the other conference in a neutral setting. Under this plan, there will be say two such events per season, one hosted by each league. Each league will send three teams to the event, playing three games each against the other league (nine games total). This could generate some excitement in the host community as they host nine games over a single weekend. Finally, a Maritime championship could be played between the two leagues. Due to time commitments a full best of seven series would be difficult to schedule. However, a best of three series could be played over just one weekend. Under this idea, all games would be played hosted by one league champion. Home field would be pre-decided and there are a number of ways how home field advantage could be determined for a Maritime championship series. It could simply go to the team with the best record, could be rotated year to year (like MLB used to do with the World Series) or it could go to the league that won the All-Star Game (if reinstated – as MLB currently does with the World Series). Since both leagues tend to wrap up by the first weekend in October, a Maritime Series could be played over the Thanksgiving weekend. Games could be played Friday evening, Saturday afternoon/evening and if necessary, Sunday afternoon.
- Promotion: Promotion of the leagues, or at least the web presence needs to be improved. Both the NSSBL & NBSBL (and the member clubs) could improve their websites, Twitter feeds and other web thingies. For example, for a lot of teams it is difficult to get even an up to date roster on their websites. This needs to change. Also, when listing the rosters they should have more info than just name, jersey number and position. Some information on each player’s baseball background would also be helpful. Seeing that senior ball is a community based organization the rosters should list where each player played their minor baseball. Many players in both leagues have college baseball backgrounds, this should also be indicated somewhere in the rosters. Players who have been either drafted by MLB or played professionally (either affiliated leagues or independent leagues) should also be noted. This would give people and idea of what kind of baseball is being played in their communities. Other teams (Kentville, Truro & Chatham) do not have Twitter feeds.
If these ideas are implemented then senior baseball could have a greater presence in the Maritime sporting community, especially during the dead & lazy summer months.